The creations of Stephen King have been keeping people up at night for decades, but Ron Howard has been losing sleep lately for a different reason.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker is becoming a bit obsessive about his plan to adapt King’s most epic creation, “The Dark Tower,” as a film franchise and tie-in television series.
“I really can’t stop thinking about it,” Howard says, shaking his head. “We’ve been meeting and talking, and I’ve been reading and researching and just kind of living with it.
“I’ve been constantly going through stuff, and I’ve just been relistening to it (on audio books) on my iPod, and we’ve been sending e-mails back and forth, ‘What about this approach? What do you think of this idea?’
“We’re finding the shape of it. We’re moving quickly now, as quickly as we can, and I feel challenged in the most exciting ways.”
As challenges go, bringing the seven-novel “Dark Tower” series to the screen is a colossal one, but Howard’s ambitions match it.
The director of “Apollo 13” and “The Da Vinci Code” is teaming up with producer Brian Grazer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman to present King’s magnum opus as a feature-film trilogy with a tie-in television series filling in the gap between the blockbuster releases.
That same creative team took home Oscars for their collaboration on “A Beautiful Mind.” It was while working on that film that Goldsman brought Howard the idea of adapting the genre-mashing “Dark Tower” and bringing to life its central character, a nomadic gunslinger named Roland Deschain, who tangles with magic, monsters and mutants.
“We worked on it for a year before we even met with him,” Howard says of King. “It was all about putting something together that was good enough and getting such an understanding of the material that Stephen King would say, ‘Yes, that’s the way into this story.’ ”
If all goes as planned, Howard will direct the first film and then the first season of a tie-in television series, both of which Goldsman will write. Two more films would follow.
In a statement, King gushed on the endeavor: “I’ve been waiting for the right team to bring the characters and stories in these books to film and TV viewers … (and) respect the origins and the characters in ‘The Dark Tower’ that fans have come to love.”
The fantasy epic began in 1982 and has spanned seven novels – the original hardcover editions add up to a staggering 3,795 pages and 30 million copies sold – with an eighth installment, tentatively titled “The Wind Through the Keyhole,” announced by the author last year.
King released an additional novella in 1998, and for three years he has been adding new chapters to the saga within the pages of Marvel Comics.
“It’s the ongoing evolution of the characters and the discovery,” Howard says of the comics. “There are new interpretations of the rules of the world and the story. It’s a really useful and compelling part of this already fascinating creative journey that we’re on.”
“It’s different than anything I’ve ever done and in really interesting ways,” the 56-year-old filmmaker adds. “With ‘Da Vinci’ the mandate was different. That was about getting the story and the action and focusing on acting.
“With this, there’s this entire world and all of these references and there are the books and the graphic novels and just talking to Stephen and it’s all this ongoing conversation with the material and it’s really exciting. In all of it, he leaves a lot open to interpretation and so it gives a great deal of latitude.”